Oct. 17, 2009
by Wes Durham
“Voice of the Jackets”
ATLANTA — Tonight is a huge game for Georgia Tech, as the Jackets welcome Virginia Tech to Midtown for as a big a game as the Coastal Division has seen all season long in the ACC.
It will be a great night for football and in a lot of ways very fitting that at the same time as tonight’s game, a Tech legend is starting to get his due as well.
Tonight in Marietta, the legendary voice of the Ramblin’ Wreck, Al Ciraldo, will be posthumously inducted into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame. It will be the first of two honors to be been bestowed on Ciraldo in the next few months that have been long overdue and so richly deserved.
Since his passing in early November of 1997, Al Ciraldo’s legacy has been celebrated with a banner that now hangs among retired jerseys and honored coaches in Alexander Memorial Coliseum. His famous calls and wonderful broadcast phrases are being passed on from generation to generation of Yellow Jacket fans.
Teenage Tech fans who were barely able to remember football, let alone Ciraldo as part of the network, know exactly what “toe meets leather” and “bunny shots” are all about, and who coined those phrases. His calls are now still very much alive thanks to audio files on the internet and the new ways that those types of things can be preserved.
It is almost like Al gets to broadcast his best work to a brand new audience of fans who never got to enjoy them when they happened the first time.
Al will be inducted as a “Legacy” into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame tonight with seven other honorees, including the late Mike Kavanagh of WSB radio. He becomes the first sports announcer to be so honored in the legacy category. Other sports announcers who have been inducted into the hall include Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, Ernie Johnson and Larry Munson. Those four gentlemen were cited for “Career Achievement” by the Hall of Fame.
Al’s daughters, Roseanne Thompson and Ruthie Grantham, will be accepting the honor on behalf of their family tonight. Al Ciraldo, Jr., one of our longtime spotters on the network, will be right beside me upstairs in radio booth on the west side of Grant Field. That’s what his Dad would want him to do, you can bet on that.
The second honor Ciraldo recently received will become official this winter in Macon. On the afternoon of the Miami game last month, word came down that Ciraldo will be inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
This honor will place Ciraldo with not only some of his broadcast colleagues, but with some of the legends in sports that he broadcast during a career with Georgia Tech that covered parts of six different decades. Six other honorees will join Ciraldo, including long-time Braves announcer Ernie Johnson.
Ciraldo’s marvelous calls in the 1990 basketball-football runs should have done it alone. Imagine the thrills of Kenny Anderson’s play against Michigan State and Minnesota to get the Jackets to Denver for the Final Four, and then nine months later, you have William Bell breaking away from the Nebraska defense to seal Tech’s win in the Citrus Bowl.
That’s the great thing about Ciraldo and the men of his era; they gave you that one call that is your favorite.
Your fellow Tech fan at the game tonight might have another one that’s his favorite. Yours might be Sisson’s kick to beat Virginia in Charlottesville. Your buddy might like Gary Lee’s kickoff return in the fog to beat Georgia. The guy a row behind you might love the runs of Malcolm King to beat Georgia in Athens.
Who knows, it might even be Dennis Scott’s steal and shot to beat Carolina at the “Thrillerdome.” Don’t forget those.
But when this induction is completed, Ciraldo will join the likes of Bobby Dodd, Randy Rhino, Kim King from football. Mark Price, Rich Yunkus and Roger Kaiser are just some of the former Jackets inducted from basketball. There are others who created magic at Georgia Tech who have been enshrined in Macon, too.
But now there will be a spot for “their voice”. A man who was raised in Ohio, went to school at Florida, and is a Yellow Jacket legend. A man who coined phrases, had descriptive nicknames, gave dramatic pauses and thrills that have lasted many lifetimes.
Those are the “facts and filaments” of Brother Al. Congratulations sir, on two honors that are richly deserved.